Reflections on motherhood #3: the joys of babywearing

This post is the third in a series about my experiences of motherhood and what I wish I’d known before I had a baby. You can see the original post here.

No, a few months ago I didn’t know that ‘babywearing’ was a thing (or even a word) either. It’s only when I stopped to think about it that I realised that most of the world’s mothers don’t have (and historically didn’t have) access to what we know and love as prams and pushchairs. I also remembered something I’d read somewhere during the hazy chaos of the early newborn days – that some babies in some cultures don’t cry. Which kind of cultures? Those cultures where babies have unlimited access to the breast and are carried all day. But those newborn weeks were so manic that I didn’t have a chance to think anything more of it.

Happily, a friend of a friend had been in touch asking for some advice about teaching A level German. She’d had a baby boy a year or so before and offered me her carrier to try out. I wasn’t one for passing up a good offer like that and readily accepted it. The type she leant me, an older style BabyBjorn, seems to be very popular with new mums. I’d seen a few others about and it looked properly sturdy and not something my daughter could fall out of (that was my main concern at this point). It was great for popping out and back to do the odd errand when I didn’t fancy lugging our pram around. But, after a while, it began to hurt my back to carry my daughter in it, so I gradually started to use it less and less. I also read on some websites that, as a narrow based carrier, it doesn’t support a baby’s back as well as other soft structured carriers or slings. But I figured it was so uncomfy for more than about ten minutes at a time that my baby wasn’t going to get any major hip problems from being in it. Then the unthinkable happened … my daughter, who was gaining weight at a rate of knots, actually grew too fat for it. I’m not joking! I could no longer fasten the clips around her and I had to finally admit total defeat and realise that if I wanted to carry her, it would have to be in a different sling or carrier. So I started to look into what was on offer.

And it was totally overwhelming! So many different kinds of slings! Ones with rings, ones with buckles, ones with straps, ones with nothing at all, ones on your front, ones on your hip, ones on your back, ones that do all of the above, ones that are ridiculously expensive, ones that are very cheap … so I decided to ask a good friend of mine who had been happily wearing her baby on her dog walks since she was born. She had two slings that she had told me about, and told me where to find out more. God bless the digital age! Because I got 99% of my knowledge from the internet. I found this website to be particularly useful at giving an introduction to the different kinds of ergonomic carrier. The folks over at Sheffield Sling Surgery also have some good introductory pages.

What’s an ergonomic carrier? Well, as I discovered, there are many types of carrier that are definitely not ergonomic, and the BabyBjorn I’d borrowed was one of them, as it had a narrow base (the most supportive kinds of carrier support the baby from one knee to the other). For a sling or carrier to be safest for you and for your baby, it needs to correspond to certain guidelines: tight, in view at all times, close enough to kiss, keep chin off chest, and supported straight back. This is known in short form as TICKS, and can be viewed in more detail in the picture below:

TICKSold

(There are also some guidelines about babies facing outwards and bag style carriers that can be viewed on the NCT sling safety page here.)

By the time I was learning about all this, my daughter was nearly 4 months old. We had largely bypassed the slings that are often recommended for newborns. I read that there are basically four types of sling:

– Wraps – These are single pieces of material that vary in weave, length and fabric. There are two basic types, stretchy wraps and woven wraps. The former are recommended for small babies up to about six months, after which they cease to be supportive enough. They can be pre-tied before putting your baby in, which is helpful when they are tiny! There are many brands but you can get a decent one for as little as £15, especially if you go second hand. There are also hybrid stretchies like the Close Caboo which are very popular. Some brands are Moby, Victoria Sling Lady (great name ;-)), Hana, Liberty and Boba. Woven wraps have a diagonal weave and come in many different blends, but most have some cotton in them. They are much more than just a bedsheet! They are woven specially for babywearing and as such are weight tested and dyed safely in case a child sucks on them (which happens frequently in my experience). They are the most versatile kind of sling. You can wear babies in many different carries on your front, hip or back. The original wrap make is Didymos, a German firm, but there are many good budget brands on the market now such as Little Frog, Lenny Lamb and Yaro Slings. Beginners are best starting with wraps that are 100% cotton, and most people begin with a size 6. You can buy a decent new size 6 for about £45. It’s worth saying that the second hand market is often better than buying new. That’s because new woven wraps take a bit of use to ‘break in’, i.e. to become soft and supple. So wraps tend to retain their retail value (or gain a little if they are especially sought after) once they have been used a lot.

– Ring slings – These are a length of fabric with two rings sewn at each end. You thread the fabric through the rings, and the weight sits on one shoulder. You put the child in and tighten the rings. They can be worn on your tummy or on your hip, or (for the adventurous) on your back. There’s a bit of a knack to it (one that I am still learning!) but once you get it these are great as it’s so quick and they last from newborn through to toddlerhood. There are variations on the type of shoulder (gathered or pleated), and whether the rails are padded or not. Most brands that manufacture woven wraps also make ring slings, so see above for some suggestions.

Soft structured carriers (SSCs) – These are carriers that fasten with straps and buckles and often have a padded waist. The Ergo carrier is perhaps the most commonly known of these types of carrier. I’ve found that some people just feel inherently more comfortable with buckle carriers, and if this is you, then the good news is there is a lot of choice these days! They can be worn for front and back carries, and are better with babies that aren’t newborns (though some come with newborn inserts). They are easy to put on, but there is a disadvantage – if someone else also uses the carrier, they will have to readjust the strap length (rather like a rucksack) to suit them, which can slow things down. Many brands also do different sizes (baby, toddler and pre-schooler). Some popular makes are Tula, Connecta, Manduca, Ergo and Beco Soleil. *IMPORTANT* Be aware that Ergo fakes are really convincing these days. Only ever buy what you think is an Ergo carrier from either a genuine Ergo stockist (like John Lewis) or if you have proof of purchase (i.e. a receipt) that it was bought from a genuine stockist (look on Ergo’s website for a list of approved retailers). The many ‘Ergo-style’ carriers that look too good to be true on eBay and from Amazon sellers are just that: too good to be true. They haven’t been safety tested and there are many anecdotal reports from within the babywearing world of straps breaking and buckles snapping.

– Mei tais – The last main type of carrier is an Asian style one that seems to me to be a cross between an SSC and a wrap. There is a panel of material with straps sewn onto it, but no buckles, and you fasten the carrier by tying a couple of knots with the straps. These are great for bigger babies as they spread the weight evenly, and can be worn for front and back carries. Again, there are many brands, and if you look on eBay you can get a Palm and Pond mei tai for about twenty five quid. But, as with many things, you get what you pay for, and although some people swear by their P&P, you can get much better quality for just a little more money. Babyhawk, Lenny Lamb and Catbird are some great brands of mei tai.

There are also hybrid carriers, like a mei tai with wrap straps, or half buckle carriers, and so on, but you can get lost in the many varieties so I’ll leave it there for now!

Now, I am no babywearing guru, and when I first started looking into all this, I really knew nothing. What I *should* have done, with the benefit of hindsight (isn’t it a wonderful thing?) is go to my local sling library and try out a few different types of sling. The Oxford Sling Library meets fortnightly and is a great resource. You pay a small fee (like a fiver!) to borrow a sling and be taught how to tie it. If you’re not local you can find your local sling library here. What I actually did was read up a lot, find a sling I liked the look of, buy it, and hope for the best.

I struck lucky. I went for a mei tai, because I figured that it was something both my husband and I could use without having to adjust strap length, and it didn’t look as fiddly (or as scary!) as wrapping. I bought a Catbird baby mei tai second hand from eBay for about £30. I used it every day from when Phoebe was 4 months to 9 months old! Suddenly I discovered how easy and comfortable it was to wear my daughter! I wish I had known about comfortable, safe and inexpensive carriers long before. As I started to use the mei tai more, I started to realise that Phoebe loved it there. And I realised that, actually, babies are born expecting to be held all day. And here was a method of holding her that was easy, cheap and so so lovely! It’s like having a really lovely long snuggly hug!

My husband also really got on with the mei tai. We started to realise that life could basically go on as before, if we just wore her in the sling. I could do all those things that the push chair had prevented me from doing for those 4 months – sit upstairs on the bus into Oxford, go on long walks round the countryside, pop to the shops without taking what felt like the kitchen sink with me. I could also do some housework (something that is difficult to do when you have a needy baby!), do the cooking (as long as I was careful), and no longer had to clean the buggy’s wheels every time we took it out (our house is carpeted). Suddenly medieval town-planned streets were open to me, and Phoebe and I no longer needed to walk a million miles to use lifts in shops. It was like becoming a person again, not just a mum!

I also figured out how to nurse her in the sling, and, given that she was such a refluxy baby, this was a life saver. She went through a prolonged stage of refusing to nurse unless we were moving and I could not have got through this stage without my trusty mei tai. And I began to see that, really, I could have made my life a lot easier if I’d just used a sling from the beginning. Baby refuses to be put down to nap? No problem, she can doze on me in the sling and life goes on. Baby wants to nurse for 6 hours straight (which is normal, by the way, in the early weeks!) No problem, she can nurse in the sling while I catch up on my correspondence or read a book. Baby refusing to go in the pram? No problem, you don’t really need one anyway. Because the truth is, babies often need to be kept physically close to you. You can’t spoil them by cuddling them too much. But life has to go on. And a sling enables my life to go on and for my daughter’s needs to be met all at the same time. Ideal. (Other benefits of babywearing can be found here.)

We went on a driving holiday to Germany in September last year, and took our pram with us. It took up half our available boot space, and we only used it once (on the ferry on the way out there, and that was when we realised we really didn’t need it). How much more German and Belgian beer we could have brought back if we had just left the pram at home! When we arrived back in the UK a week and a bit later, we retired the pram. Most people who have a sling also use buggies, but we realised that we didn’t need it and it was taking up a lot of space in our small house! So we put it in the loft. We haven’t missed it.

‘But doesn’t it hurt your back?’ I get this question a lot. The answer is, well, no, unless you have pre-existing back problems. Not if you use your sling properly and it is an appropriate one to your baby’s age and weight. I *did* find the mei tai started to get a bit diggy with me as Phoebe neared the 9 month mark. But I think that’s because I was wearing her too low down, and not tying it off evenly. It’s just I had been able to get away with it when she was smaller. My husband still happily wears her in the mei tai for hours at a time.

I, on the other hand, decided to have a go at wrapping, and bought myself a Little Frog size 5 from this online retailer who came highly recommended. It is a daunting wrapping world out there, I’ll tell you, complete with much unknown terminology that can put people off. Wraps come in different blends, sizes, brands, colour ways and patterns. There is a thriving Facebook community of buyers and sellers of woven wraps, and they all use abbreviations that can be somewhat perplexing. It took me a while to learn how to ‘speak sling’. ‘DISO Erna 3’, for example, means that the poster is desperately in search of a Kokadi (that’s the brand) Erna im Wunderland (that’s the pattern) in a size 3 (about 3.2m). ‘DH with a CCCB’ means that the poster has wrapped a Double Hammock (a kind of carry) with a candy cane chestbelt (a sort of belt across your chest that is made by twisting the strands of your wrap). Wrapping also looks terribly tricky at first, and it does take practice. But I have found it to be totally worth it. Why? Because it’s the only type of sling that moulds perfectly to you and your baby’s size. It’s also the most versatile because you can do about a hundred different carries (that is, there are about a hundred different ways of wrapping the material around you), so if you find one of them pulls on certain bits of your body, you can just switch to another one. Now, I certainly cannot do a hundred different types of carries. I can do about four. But that’s all I need at the moment and I’m trying to perfect the ones I can do before I look at learning others.

I have had some amusing comments when wrapping my baby in public. My favourite (from a dear mum friend) was ‘you’re like an earth mother, Victoria!’ Another good one was ‘did you learn that from Africans?!?’ Um, no, from YouTube actually. And it’s true, you can totally teach yourself to wrap from watching YouTube videos. I have found the best to be by www.wrapyouinlove.com (though she makes it look so easy!), though if you join some of the Facebook groups such as this one you’ll pick up a lot of other good video tutorials.

Like so many babies, my daughter is currently going through a period of extreme separation anxiety and often wants to be with me all the time at the moment, to the extent that I often have to take her to the loo with me too because otherwise she gets really distressed! Since I figured it’s easier to change my life to fit her needs rather than her needs to fit my life (and since I know that periods of separation anxiety are totally normal), I realised it was time to learn how to back carry her so I could get on with doing the cooking and preparing the table for breakfast etc. She was now too big to be on my front as I couldn’t see past her when preparing things in front of me, so it was time to learn how to get her on my back. To help me, I watched a million videos, practised over a bed (but only for 5 minutes at a time as Phoebe got bored) and I also had a sling consultation with Emily Edwards from wearthemwithlove. Emily is an accredited babywearing consultant and volunteers at the Oxford Sling Library. I had a 2 hour consultation on ruck technique and felt much more confident about getting Phoebe on my back safely and effectively. We’re now progressing to other back carries that are multilayer and more supportive than a simple ruck. It is a learning curve, but I love learning new skills, and I am now confident enough to back wrap in public and Phoebe enjoys being up there when we’re out and about.

Finally, another comment I often get is ‘she’ll soon be too heavy for you to do that’. Actually, you can carry your child until he or she outgrows the need (i.e. till pre-school age), so long as you have an appropriately supportive carrier that you know how to use. And as I always tell people, I find it *much* easier and less tiring to carry Phoebe now, even though she weighs 9kg, than I did when I was pregnant with her. I have so much more energy, and her weight is distributed evenly. I honestly wouldn’t do it if it was uncomfortable or tiring! I have so enjoyed learning about this noble tradition that stretches back millennia, and I know that I have much more to learn in the coming months and years. If you’re in doubt – give it a try! Pop to a sling library and borrow a sling for a fiver. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. On the contrary, I think you’ll get the bug like me!

I’ll leave you with a video tutorial of the best woven wrap carry to start off with: a front wrap cross carry (FWCC). Enjoy!

Reflections on motherhood #2: What I wish I’d known about breastfeeding

This post is the second in a series about my experiences of motherhood and what I wish I’d known before I had a baby. You can see the original post here.

I’ll let you in on a little secret. Before I had my daughter, I was totally grossed out by the idea of breastfeeding. I was quite apprehensive about it, too, because I found the whole idea of sustaining a person from my actual physical body totally and utterly weird. I realise now, looking back, that, like most people in the West, I had grown up in a culture where breasts are for sex, at least primarily. Think about it: when was the last time you saw a reference to breasts, and what was the context? We live in a bizarre world where topless women on Page 3 are OK but women who breastfeed in public are openly shamed. If you feel even a little bit awkward reading this post, then you’ve succumbed to the prevailing culture too. We have lost touch with what breasts are primarily for: feeding infants.

In the days of yore, and still today in many more traditional societies around the world, people grew up seeing babies and young children being breastfed all the time. If it wasn’t several of your own siblings you saw being breastfed, it was your cousins, or your next door neighbours, sitting on the street corner, in the house, being carried out and about. Breastfeeding, or nursing, which better describes the act, was totally normalized. It was understood as an intrinsic part of mothering. When you started to have children of your own, you were surrounded by women who had done it before you, and who could share their experiences with you and help you overcome any difficulties. Of course it wasn’t utopia, and I am grateful that I have access to twenty first century medical and scientific knowledge. But what we have lost is the fact that nursing was a normal part of everyday life. Almost all mothers did it for years on end as they had child after child. The only exception was the wealthy, most of whom paid someone else to nurse their babies.

As a pregnant mum-to-be, I thought breastfeeding, as opposed to formula feeding, was another choice you made alongside other parenting choices like what kind of birth you want, where the baby should sleep, what kind of car seat you should get, that kind of thing. This was a choice about how you feed your baby. It was a no-brainer that I would breastfeed. I wish I could say it was because I wanted my baby to have the best start in life nutritionally, but it wasn’t. I was aware of the ‘benefits’ of breastfeeding to both mum and baby, thanks to the NHS and other web pages on the topic, and obviously I did want the best for my baby when she arrived. But what motivated me was because I honestly thought breastfeeding sounded like much less faff than formula feeding, along with the fact that it is free. No bottle-washing and sterilizing and mixing and warming and cooling and heaven only knows what else, no worrying about how many ounces to give when and of which type of formula and so on. Plus I’d spied in my local Co-op that a tub of formula will set you back an impressive ten quid these days. No, I would breastfeed, so I could polish my halo of how I was providing the best for my baby even though secretly I was just doing it because it was easier.

I did a bit of homework, but not a lot. I had found out about the Kellymom website because it had been recommended in an online pregnancy forum, and done a bit of reading. I learnt that very little was known about breastfeeding before about 1990. I learnt that the first milk you produce is called colostrum, which is very concentrated and high in antibodies. Your milk then ‘comes in’ a few days later. I also learnt a bit about the mechanics of breastfeeding, how it works on a supply and demand basis. Essentially, the more often and effectively milk is removed from the breast, the more milk is made. I learnt that the first couple of weeks is crucial in establishing the supply needed to feed your baby. That was as far as my reading took me.

What surprised me was that the same online pregnancy forum mentioned above also taught me that many women struggle to achieve their breastfeeding goals, and this made it seem like breastfeeding was really hard. When my midwife asked me if I’d thought about how I would want to feed my baby, I voiced my concern. She looked at me sadly and said it could be tough at the beginning, but got a lot easier. It shocked me to discover that despite the recommendation by the Department of Health and the World Health Organization that a baby should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months, only 1% of British mothers achieved this in 2010. But the number of women in the UK that initiated breastfeeding was 81%. What goes wrong?

There are many, many things I wish I’d known about breastfeeding before I had a baby. I wish I’d known that engorgement is really, really painful, but only lasts a few days. I wish I’d known that newborns frequently nurse for hours on end and that this is normal (my daughter’s personal best was 12 hours straight with only the odd break here and there for nappy changes). I wish I’d known that babies feed to sleep and that far from this being a ‘bad habit’ it is one of the most useful mothering tools at one’s disposal. I wish I’d known that the anthropologically normal age to wean from breastfeeding is between 2 and a half and seven years of age. I wish I’d known that the type of birth you have statistically affects the likelihood of successful breastfeeding. I wish I’d known that breast milk has amazing medicinal properties – baby got nappy rash? Put some breast milk on it. Baby got a blocked nose? Squirt some breast milk up it to clear it (no, really!)

But there are two things I really wish I’d known before having a baby about breastfeeding. The first is that it is about so much more than keeping your baby fed and hydrated. It’s not even about bonding, though that is also one of the main benefits of nursing. No, it’s that breastfeeding is a kind of mothering. An infant’s needs basically boil down to being kept warm, having their tummies full, and feeling safe. Breastfeeding satisfies all of these needs, all in one go. When my baby cries, the first thing I have always done is offer her the breast. 99% of the time she takes it. Most of the time I still don’t really know what the source of her discomfort is when she’s upset, but I know the cure. That is of great solace to me!

And it’s not all about her. When I nurse her, I calm down. My ten month old explorer baby doesn’t really ‘do’ down time. She doesn’t believe in napping for more than 25 minutes a day. Every day, numerous times, I really *really* need a break from her pulling herself up on anything, crawling frantically everywhere, pulling the books off the bookshelves, throwing her food around the room, and so on. And so we go upstairs, I get comfy on the bed, and we nurse, sometimes for half an hour or more. It is a wonderful thing.

This quote from the seventh edition of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding (now in its eighth edition) beautifully sums up the joy of the nursing relationship which so often gets overlooked in the ‘choice’ mothers are given about how they feed their babies:

The natural power of breastfeeding is one of the greatest wonders of the world. It is about real love. It is about caring and celebrating the wondrous joy of nurturing a new life. It is about enjoying being a woman. In a world too often dominated by materialism and greed, every act of the natural power of breastfeeding reminds us that there is another way, the natural way, the breastfeeding way. Breastfeeding is about the power of peace, the power of goodness, and the power of responsibility. (Source)

It makes me so sad knowing that so many women fail to experience this joy of breastfeeding their baby for as long as they had wanted to. But perhaps many of them, like me, didn’t know that there is so much help available, especially here in Oxfordshire. This brings me on to the second thing I wish I’d known about breastfeeding: getting help antenatally is really smart. The truth is that many women fail to reach their breastfeeding goals because for whatever reason they did not have access to adequate skilled support. There are very few women who are unable to breastfeed. But there are many, many women who need skilled help when they come up against common breastfeeding problems, especially in the early weeks. By ‘help’ I mean much more help than just your midwife or Health Visitor observing another feed. Some midwives and HVs are really knowledgeable, others less so. Most of them have only had a few days’ training when it comes to breastfeeding, at best.

In Oxfordshire, we are blessed with (among other groups) a local La Leche League branch, breastfeeding clinics in the JR, and numerous Baby Cafes all around town. LLL is a group that exists to promote breastfeeding and enable women to do it. There are no ‘experts’ at LLL, the emphasis is very much on mother-to-mother sharing, and I’ve found the local branch to be tremendously supportive so far in my breastfeeding journey. The breastfeeding clinics and Baby Cafes are usually run by someone with the qualification IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant), which means they have undergone intensive training and are highly specialist practitioners when it comes to breastfeeding. All of this support is free. Both LLL and Baby Cafe Oxford have (closed) Facebook groups in which women can post questions. These online forums have been of tremendous help to me. In fact, it was rather by accident that I found out about Baby Cafes in the first place. A friend of mine had recently had a baby and I was looking through the parenting groups she was a member of on Facebook. I noticed one of them, Baby Cafe, and was intrigued, as I had never heard of it before (at this stage I didn’t know it was a breastfeeding support group). I clicked on what I thought was the group but accidentally clicked ‘join’, and, when an admin had approved it, I found myself in the group by mistake. I am so glad of this mistake! Just reading other people’s posts and comments taught me pretty much everything I needed to know about breastfeeding. Though it has to be said, face to face breastfeeding support is even better! We are blessed to have such incredible professional and free support available: in former times, it was not so. I have recently become involved with ministry to the elderly through my church and a few months ago I was at a bible study group made up of six ladies in their 80s and 90s. We got chatting about motherhood and one asked whether I was feeding her myself. I said yes and she said ‘you’re so lucky. I never managed to feed any of my five children.’ It transpired that not one of them had managed to breastfeed any of their children past the first couple of weeks. They told me how official advice was very different then (I guess it was the height of formula feeding), and there was no breastfeeding support like we have today. But what I took away from it was that, despite official advice, ALL of them wanted to feed their babies, ALL of them felt like it was the natural and right thing to do, and ALL of them still felt strongly about it 60-70 years later! They were all so encouraged to hear about things like breastfeeding clinics, Baby Cafés, LLL, and children’s centres and I suddenly realised how very blessed we are having all this wonderful support. A lot of older people seem to bemoan how things are changing for the worse in ‘modern society’ but here were six old ladies all agreeing that things are so much better now with regards to infant feeding.

I was lucky – after my wonderful birth experience, I was given good advice by the midwives that attended me and, despite a few hiccoughs in the first three weeks, I made it through the tough patch. Next time, I know where to find the support, and I’ll be accessing it well before I ‘need’ it. I’ll leave you with a lovely story about a friend’s experience of Baby Cafe. She has allowed me to share it here.

It was about this time last year, on a Friday, that my OH and I walked down to the Florence Park baby cafe. I was 8 1/2 months pregnant with my first baby and I fully intended to breastfeed. But I had not actually seen anyone breastfeed in the flesh for over 30 years. All of my friends had failed in their breastfeeding attempts, which made it seem like an elusive and difficult skill. I had no idea how to acquire this skill, as I had no mum friends or sisters to ask. I’d bought a book and read a few articles on the net, but I was still very confused about the whole thing, partly because I’d read very contradictory information. I was having a planned caesarean, which I had been told would make breastfeeding more difficult. I felt that I needed face-to-face information, and I thought that I should do my fact-finding BEFORE the birth and not whilst I was tired, emotional, recovering from surgery and on strong pain killers. When we turned up, my OH was the only man there that day, all the other women already had babies and were busy feeding. I had never seen so many babies in one room together in my life. It was terribly daunting. But Lisa [the Baby Cafe facilitator] was there and once she’d helped the other mums, she talked to us. In the next 30 minutes I learned more or less everything I needed to know to breastfeed successfully. I cannot overstate the difference which this one ante-natal face-to-face encounter made to me. It is, without a doubt, the reason why I am still feeding my baby girl, almost a year later, and the reason why she has never had any formula. Lisa clarified things I was confused about (is it normal for it to hurt, or are you doing it wrong if it hurts?), and she dismissed misinformation, for example by being utterly adamant that a caesarean is no obstacle to BFing. Being given the pretend-baby doll to pretend-feed it was really helpful. Previously, I had had no real sense of how heavy a newborn was, and it hadn’t occurred to me that their little hands and arms might get in the way. Lisa showed me how to position the baby, and handle the arms. She showed me a number of ways to hold the baby, including caesarean-friendly ones. The practical advice she gave me is very simple really, but I repeated it to myself like a mantra in hospital every time I tried to get the baby to latch. Tummy to tummy, nose to nipple, head tilted back, and baby’s back and head in a straight line (rather than the head twisted to the side, which is how I’d somehow imagined it). She explained about supply and demand, and although I’d read about it before, she boiled it down to one simple notion: Trust the baby. Baby knows. Follow the baby’s cues, and it’ll all be fine. She mentioned babies crawling to find the nipple, which I’d never heard of, so I was able to read up on it later. Instead of seeing babies as helpless little lumps, I came away from that visit with a real sense of admiration for how clever and well adapted babies are. She also explained the actual procedure in hospital, and how to get help if you needed it (I had no idea there was an infant feeding specialist in the hospital, or that you could ask for them!) When I left the Baby Cafe that day, I knew everything I needed to. I had the practical knowledge for how to feed my baby. I knew how to access support. I was given almost total certainty that my body would be able to do what it needed to do, and that my baby would know what to do, too. I knew how to identify bad advice so I could dismiss it. She also told me how to identify and deal with the most common problems people have, and told OH how he could be supportive. Lisa’s number was saved in my phone when I went into hospital, but I never had to call her in the end. When I was in theatre, holding my baby girl, she bobbed her head up and down. Despite having no clue about babies I actually knew what this meant, as Lisa had shown me how babies ‘peck’ like a chicken to try and find the nipple. I noticed the baby doing it before the midwife did, so I was able to ask for her help. My daughter latched on in theatre, only a few minutes after being born, whilst I was still being stitched up, and she has successfully fed ever since. We have had no engorgement, mastitis, or thrush. Whatever problems we encountered (bleeding nipple, blisters on nipple) we knew how to overcome them, too. I truly believe that it was the information and support that I received on that day that empowered us to feed successfully from day one. And ‘trust the baby’ has become the corner stone of my parenting in all matters.

‘This Morning’ by Emma Ballantine

DSC03157Are you as amazed as I am by the glory of this beautiful morning? And not just of this one, but of the last few mornings? Creation is just bursting with glory at the moment. And a perfect response is this wonderful song called This Morning by Emma Ballantine, a good friend of mine. Have a listen, and let yourself be swept off into a dreamlike world of glory.

No one’s seen the sun so bright lately or the sky so completely clear … It seems anything could go from here …

You can also visit Emma’s website here.